Debating diversity on trade show floors

I think it’s fair to say, just as an observation, that women and people of color are under-represented at plastics industry events. It is not say that there are systemic reasons or malicious intent in this underrepresentation – although some would argue that there is – but there is a fact, and the question we have to grapple with is, what should we do about it? The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) is taking a bold step to start this conversation with panel discussions at upcoming Plastec and Advanced Manufacturing events hosted by Informa Markets – Engineering, which also produces Plastics Today.

Described by Informa Markets – Engineering as “an engaging mix of speeches, panel discussions, ‘TED Talk’ style sessions, audience interaction and networking opportunities,” the panel discussions will explain how top companies foster diversity, equity and inclusion (DCI) in their organizations, DCI’s business case, how to lead by becoming a change agent, etc. The first roundtable is scheduled for Advanced Manufacturing East, which includes several co-located shows, including Plastec East and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) in New York on December 6-7, 2021. The conversation will continue in Anaheim, Calif. Advanced West Manufacturing in April 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, in June; and Minneapolis in November.

The demographics for most plastics industry events are consistent with the most recent data from the US Census Bureau and the Department of Labor showing the composition of the workforce across manufacturing and the plastics industry in particular, said Patrick Farrey, CEO of SPE. Plastics Today. According to this data, while women make up about half of the total U.S. population, they make up 29.5 percent of the national manufacturing workforce. It should be noted that they represent a slightly higher percentage of the plastic products manufacturing workforce at 33.4%. The non-white population in the United States stands at 39.4%, but holds only 20.3% of jobs in manufacturing and 19.6% of jobs in plastics manufacturing. “This very fundamental data is consistent with the footfall demographics we see at most events in the plastics industry,” said Farrey. “The audience there is largely white men, with women and people of color being underrepresented in relation to the general population and the overall workforce.” Having this conversation, however, should not be interpreted as “taking away an opportunity from anyone,” Farrey stressed.

SPE / Canvas

“I’m old enough to remember when affirmative action was used as a weapon in the workplace, taking away job and advancement opportunities from some people and giving them to others just on the basis of the breed, ”said Farrey. Plastics Today. “Clearly that’s not it! SPE, and any organization appropriately committed to DCI principles, share the goal of creating Following opportunity for Following people. We intend to encourage and empower people from under-represented groups to seek employment opportunities in the plastics industry, and to support them so that they can achieve equitable success in these careers.

Promoting greater diversity within work environments is also profitable for businesses and is a critical component for businesses wishing to attract younger employees to replace an aging workforce. Farrey points to “a ton of ongoing research” showing the benefits for companies that embrace the principles of DCI. He quotes a item in the September issue of Plastics engineering magazine, written by editor Pat Toensmeier. He writes: “DEI strategies have many (business) advantages. Research indicates that companies that have engaged in DEI achieve greater product innovation, higher market share, improved cash flow, and increased profitability than those that do not have such programs or are late in their implementation…. “

A commitment to DCI principles can also be a critical factor in recruiting young workers. “For the record, I hear from young professional members of SPE their desire to work for companies with a social conscience on subjects such as DCI and the environment. A survey conducted in July by Glassdoor found that 76% of employees and job seekers believe that a diverse workforce is an important factor in deciding which company to work for. Even if your business isn’t paying attention to DEI, your future workforce will, ”said Farrey.

The details of the roundtables as well as the attendees are a work in progress, but Informa Markets – Engineering has announced that DCI sessions will be held over two days at the events, with a half-day of discussions on the first day followed by a reception. , and a full day of presentations and lunch on the second day of the event. More information will be published on the DEI page from the SPE website as soon as it becomes available.


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